Laws Regarding Rape

For this paper I thought it may help to incorporate a case to help with the perspective of the protocols and the convictions. I decided to look at the case Maddox V. Montgomery in the United States Courts of Appeals. Appellant Jimmy Maddox was convicted of rape in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life imprisonment. The appellant and alleged victim, Kathy Elder at the time of trial gave different accounts of the events in question. Having unsuccessfully pursued his direct appeal and the state post-conviction remedy, that appellant filed a federal habeas corpus petition alleging prosecutorial suppression of exculpatory evidence in violation of the doctrine of Brady v. Maryland. Appellant asserted that his right to due process was violated by the state’s failure to disclose (1) a photograph of the bed neatly made after the rape was to happen, (2) the results of a police examination of the bedspread which revealed no blood, semen, or other fluid, and (3) written statement by another witness. Appellant appeals the denial of habeas relief. In order to prevail on a Brady claim, one must establish the materiality of the exculpatory information suppressed by the prosecution. Accordingly the evidence is immaterial under Blasco and its suppression did not violate appellant’s due process right. For the foregoing reasons, the district court’s dismissal of appellant’s habeas petition is affirmed.

An officer’s first duty at the scene of a rape is to aid the victim and obtain medical attention immediately if required, briefly question the victim about the attack if she is able to speak. The crime scene should be secured and a search for physical evidence begun as soon as possible (Lyman, 2017). Forensic examination is the most critical component in the aftermath of a sexual assault; they treat the assault survivor for medical injuries and collect evidence. Forensic medical examination starts at the vaginal or penetrated area to determine if there is evidence of tissue damage, and other indication of physical trauma that is logically connected with the assault. If the victim dies before the physical examination, the body should be examined by the posting physician or the medical examiner. The medical examination of a deceased victim should include other body cavities such as the anus, mouth, and ears. Scrapings should also be taken from under the fingernails (Lyman, 2017).

Evidence in rape cases may take many forms; determination of the circumstances surrounding the attack must be made. A flash description of the suspect or his vehicle should be given to the dispatcher for possible broadcast. Evidence may be present under her fingernails, clothing, or surroundings where the assault took place (Lyman, 2017). Kits for rape evidence collection typically include, forms covering medical examination and interview of the victim, consent or release concerning authority to disseminate victim-related information, and consent or release regarding evidence obtained from the victim. General essentials of a rape kit include, head brush/ comb, pubic comb, packaging for hair samples, vagina swabbing, oral swabbing, anal swabbing, fingernail scrapings and miscellaneous collection packing (Lyman, 2017).

Crime laboratory should have the victims clothing and garments, and analyzed by crime laboratory technicians for semen stains, bloodstains, hair, and other physical traces, such as soil and grass stains. Clothing should be covered with paper before folding and each item individually placed in an evidence bag (Lyman, 2017).

Interviewing process after an attack, assault or rape should be done in a caring, dignified manner; the officer should try to see her point of view. Many agencies have found it helpful to utilize female officers individually or in conjunction with a male officer for such interviews. The initial interview conducted at the crime scene should be limited to gathering basic facts about the crime sufficient to identify the victim and to describe and locate the offender on a timely basis. After the victim has medical attention the second interview should be gathering complete information during the in-depth interview; officers avoid the need to repeatedly question the victim at later dates (Lyman, 2017). Investigative goal of the officer in interviewing a rape victim is to determine if and how the crime occurred, statements made by the victim to the officer are essential elements of the offense and the direction of the investigation. It is the investigator’s responsibility to provide the court with the explanation and clarification it seeks (Lyman, 2017).

An officer should always make sure to keep the victim as comfortable as possible, during the in depth interview allow a close friend or family member the victim trust with her, make sure opening remarks represent a critical point at which an officer must gain the victim’s confidence, letting her know you are there to protect her. After the opening remarks, the officer should allow the victim to direct the conversation into any area of concern to her. This is a ventilation process which allows, the victim an opportunity to relieve emotional tension (Lyman, 2017). After a ventilation period the victim, should be allowed to describe what occurred in her own words and without interruption. The officer should be humane, sympathetic, and patient (Lyman, 2017).

As courts became more rigorous in protecting defendants’ rights, prosecutors, accordingly, had to be more precise about what they offered as evidence. In order to abide by the new standards, judges adhered to strict regulations governing exhibits’ chain of possession. Chain of possession refers to the “movement and location of real evidence from the time it is obtained to the time it is presented in court.”22 This legal requirement, enforced more stringently during a new era of protecting the rights of the accused, called into question the veracity of women testifying in rape trials. It also potentially exposed the blunders of the police (Flood, 2012).

The court decided that as discussed in United States v. Blasco the evidence is immaterial and its suppression did not violate appellant’s due process right. The district court dismissed the appellant’s habeas petition. In this case the state failed to disclose substantive evidence favorable to the defendant for which there was no specific request, the standard set forth in United States v. Agurs. There are four types of situation in which the Brady doctrine applies: (1) the prosecutor has not disclosed information despite specific defense request; (2) the prosecutor has not disclosed information despite general defense request for all exculpatory information or without any defense request at all;(3) the prosecutor knows or should know that the conviction is based on false evidence;(4) the prosecutor fails to disclose purely impeaching evidence not concerning a substantive issue, in the absence of a specific defense request. Untied States v. Anderson, 573 F.2d 1347, 1353 (5th Cir. 1978) In the United States v. Blasco the court noted that, “if the suppressed evidence is purely impeaching evidence and no defense request has been made; the suppressed evidence is material only if its introduction probably would have resulted in acquittal.” (1978).

In Agurs, the Supreme Court stated that such a failure to disclose violates due process only “if the omitted evidence creates a reasonable doubt that did not otherwise exist.” It goes on to discuss that with regard to the photograph of the bed, they agree with the district court that “the undisclosed photography does not create a reasonable doubt as to the appellant’s guilt that did not otherwise exist” and that is not material under Agurs. Similarly, the results of the police examination of the bedspread do not give rise to a reasonable doubt and again are immaterial under Agurs. Although both pieces of evidence, if admitted at trial, might conceivably have affected the jury’s verdict, the constitution threshold of materiality is higher. Insofar the information is merely consistent with the appellant’s version of the incident and scarcely contradicts the alleged victim’s testimony and the evidence at issue is not sufficiently material to render the states’ failure to disclose unconstitutional.

One must establish the materiality of the exculpatory information suppressed by the prosecution to prevail on a Brady claim and that evidence is material only if its introduction could have possibly resulted in an acquittal. Furthermore failure to disclose violates the due process only if that evidence omitted can create a reasonable doubt that did not already exist. Under all of the evidence given the judges made the decision that the evidence is immaterial under Blasco, and that its suppression did not violate the appellant’s due process right and the court dismissed the appellants’ habeas corpus petition.

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